I Left My Heart in Buenos Aires
copyright 2002, by
Diana Lecter & Drandmrslecter
Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling were created by, Thomas
Harris. They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit
of admiration and respect. No infringement of copyright is intended, and
no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to
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Holidays, whether they be Christmas or Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, were always celebrated festively, with little regard to the day at hand. In their shared experience, through the years together, Clarice came to understand that any day, regardless of origin, was simply another excuse to be doted upon, even more than usual. There was that year where she received a Victoria Day gift, a ritual that had, of course, ensued every year thereafter. Despite the flamboyancy, the holiday celebrations were very comparable, all except Christmas, her birthday, and Valentine’s Day.
Clarice very much liked Valentine’s Day. In her former life, it was a festivity she just as soon avoid, having no one to share it with, no one she wanted (in her conscious, alert state) to share it with. Now, happier than she had ever been, over compensation for ignored holidays and missed birthdays, all those occasions they should have spent together over the course of their lapsed seven years, was a welcome delight.
This Valentine’s Day, however, for the first time since her rebirth into this life, Clarice was upset. All the way home from their trip to town, Lecter spoke soothingly to her, which, in all fairness, did help tremendously.
“My dear, you shouldn’t let something so trivial ruin your day,” he whispered, despite their already achieved privacy. The window separating them from their driver had been tested on a good many occasion, sometimes with rather unorthodox methods. Why he chose to speak softly, she did not know. “I would have thought that the reaction you receive from others in credit to your stunning appearance would not only cease to surprise you after so many years, but similarly obtain some measure of flattery.”
Sighing, Clarice nodded and leaned back. “I’m just sick of it all, Hannibal, despite however flattering it’s supposed to be. Being gawked at…I thought it was bad before, without pampering…and don’t pretend to be so chaste. I know it irritates you, too.”
“Irritates me to have the catch of the county? Preposterous, Clarice.”
Just as he hoped, she had to grin at that, opening her frustrated eyes to look up at him and plant a thankful though brief kiss on his lips. “Just the county?”
“Ah, there she is. The radiant woman I love, suffering her same inferiority complexes, no matter how much of a goddess I coddle her to be,” he teased. “I will not say it doesn’t bother me, Clarice. I believe you know better. However, I have come to understand that slicing and dicing every admirer of yours, or even writhing in irritation, really accomplishes little. Now then…he didn’t say anything too offensive, did he?” It was easy for him to portray this cool exterior, even if he knew that she knew him well enough not to be fooled. The truth in the matter was, he hated seeing her so flustered and upset on what had originally promised to be a lovely evening. Valentine’s Day was his favorite of the holidays they celebrated, though Christmas always was enjoyable, as was Thanksgiving, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, their birthdays, and, in the recent, the ever-amusing Victoria Day festivities. Any excuse was applicable, but that hardly made the infamous February 14th any less spectacular with numerous carousing.
“You didn’t hear, you mean?” Her eyes widened and she sat up suddenly. “I’m so used to you being attuned to everything.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint, my dear, but I was rather distracted, and three stores down. While my senses are rather sharp, I will not boast to be that good.”
Clarice rolled her eyes, and while the original irritation lingered behind her pupils, she was coming off it, slowly but surely. “In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t needed to exercise my FBI senses in several years. There have been times when I thought you were across town, but you were right behind me. Remember?”
“Mmmm…yes. That was rather amusing.” For a minute, that seemed like the end of the conversation, but Lecter’s eagerness to hear what the most recent drooling whelp had said to agitate her so much was evident to both of them. These days, it was becoming exceedingly difficult to hide anything anymore. Even presents that they constantly purchased for one another were no longer mysterious. It was entertaining, the variety of methods conjured to attempt to fool the other, as was the post-present unwrapping ceremony in which they ‘punished’ one another for being too damn clever. “Please, Clarice,” he hissed insistently, toning to the way he knew she enjoyed his voice. Low, seductive, and to anyone else, deadly. “I’m on the edge of my seat.”
At that, she arched her brows challengingly. “Oh? So we’re interested now?”
Her only response was a dry look. Neither would come out and say it.
The car pulled up to their abode, and while she sensed his tension, she didn’t say a word. They thanked the driver and slid out of the car, walked arm in arm to the front door where he finally pulled her aside and said rather huskily, “I can tell this is bothering you, and I’d rather like it to be behind us before we begin the night’s revelry. What was said?”
She held his gaze for a minute, eyebrows arched. Obviously, the day’s comment wasn’t nagging her as much as before. Testing the doctor’s patience, whether in circumstances such as this or any other, often acted as a sublime mood booster. However, when she saw that it would clearly ruin *his* evening, she leaned forward and whispered the ghastly thing in his ear.
At first, there was no response, vocally. Anger flickered behind those dark eyes, and she shivered a bit to reflect the gaze that she had seen many times, that many others only saw once. However, he didn’t comment. Instead, he exhaled and merely perked his brows and considered. “I see,” he said finally, pushing the door open. “Now that it’s behind us, let the festivities proceed.”
That wasn’t like him, but she didn’t want to worry about it and spoil the evening. Smiling to show she was entirely over it and that they shouldn’t dwell, she leaned forward to kiss him once more before moving inside.
Hannibal Lecter, ever the gentleman, assisted in getting them both settled in. He set the bags down in the foyer and reset the alarms as Clarice put the keys away. He casually glanced over his shoulder every now and then to try and gage her reaction at the most recent events. The last thing he wanted was to show even the slightest bit of annoyance at the lewd comments that had been jested to his lover. No need to concern himself with that now, he thought as he blinked the thought away, feeling a smile cross his face.
“The terrace?” Clarice asked, making sure that there were no surprises in store and dinner would be served at the usual location.
“Yes, Clarice, the terrace. That is, unless, you’d like to dine elsewhere this evening?”
“No, the terrace is fine,” she replied with a half smile, doing her best to forget the rudeness she had encountered. The last thing she wanted to do was ruin Hannibal’s Valentine’s Day as well.
Within the hour and after a quick change into eveningwear, dinner was served, Hannibal having timed everything perfectly. Once the covered dishes were laid out, he dismissed the servants for the evening, ensuring their complete privacy.
Besides each place setting was a small gift box, wrapped up in iridescent pink wrapping paper, each donning a red ribbon. They smiled at one another as Hannibal pulled out Clarice’s chair for her and then himself took his seat.
“Do you want to open them up at the same time?” Clarice asked, surprised at the excitement in her voice.
“If that would please you, my dear, then certainly,” he replied as Clarice began the countdown.
“Ok, then, here we go. 1-2-3!”
Just then, both Hannibal and Clarice simultaneously took the little white tops off the boxes and looked down at the contents, and then back up to each other.
Clarice smiled wide and began to sniffle, feeling the hot tears beginning to make their way down her cheek. She stared into Hannibal’s maroon eyes and seeing nothing but love among the red sparks that flew in them simply replied, “Thank you.”
Hannibal was silent for a moment before placing his scarred hand on hers, gently rubbing her knuckles with his thumb. “And thank you, Clarice. Would you like us to try them on?”
With that, Hannibal rose from his chair, taking the platinum and diamond initial necklace from its box and carefully placed the letter ‘H’ around her beautiful neck.
Clarice placed her hand on it to make sure it was secure and looked at Hannibal, tears still streaming down her face. “So, how does it look?”
Hannibal smiled as he replied, “Stunning…much like yourself.”
Clarice leaned her head towards him and gave him a soft kiss on the mouth, suggesting, “Let me put yours on, okay?”
Hannibal sat back down as Clarice got up and took his box, taking his platinum, diamond and onyx letter ‘C’ necklace, prepared to place it around his neck.
“You’re going to have to loosen up that tie, Baby,” she teased him.
“Why don’t you loosen it up for me, Ex-Special Agent Starling” he purred seductively as she quickly loosened it before her hands began shaking, hastily securing the necklace.
“It looks great!” Clarice exclaimed as Hannibal kissed her hand before she took her seat once again as he began to serve their first course.
“I’m so glad we decided to get these,” Clarice began. “When I saw them the other day, I knew we had to have them. That was when I first saw…”
Her voice trailed off as Hannibal put the pieces together. “That rude man, correct?”
Clarice lowered her eyes and put her napkin on her lap as Hannibal served her the fresh Gazpacho soup.
“Yes,” she said curtly as she began to eat.
“No need to worry about him, Clarice.”
“I’m not worried,” she replied defensively.
Hannibal sat down and began to eat, studying Clarice and said with a smile, “Clarice. After dinner I’d like for you to make yourself comfortable and to meet me in the Master Bedroom. There are a few surprises I have in store for you. Please don’t keep me waiting, as time is of the essence.”
“Hannibal Lecter, what are you up to?”
He smiled and leaned in to give Clarice a quick kiss on the cheek and replied, “After I ravish you this evening, you will have nothing but fond memories of today, I assure you.”
Clarice found herself instinctively eating a bit faster as her thoughts turned to that of Hannibal Lecter fucking her and then showering her with more exquisite gifts. What could be better?
The cortex of Clarice’s mind often varied in waves and colors. While she continued to wiggle with anticipation, she allowed herself to catch up internally on recent events. For something so simple, she found herself unspeakably touched, and such was mildly disconcerting. In all their years together, she came to understand that no gift or memento that he provided on these festive occasions (or on a whim, coinciding with any excuse he typically conjured) were all intensely satisfying, despite size or price. There was no differentiating significance. Even in this instance, when the necklaces they similarly donned were selected together especially for this day, she was moved still. They were more than adornments of ownership, for in this life, neither assumed full power. True, both had been forced to rearrange their personal habitual to compromise their analogous love of control, but likewise giving it up in consideration of the ultimate prize, which was very much worth the cost.
There was no ownership; there was equality. In wearing such pieces of jewelry, it emphasized how very comparable they were, and even had been in the sad, empty years before such unity.
For a minute, her eyes rested on the ‘C’ around his neck, and again she was empowered by what it meant. Not simply for her sake…they were in this together.
Without speaking, without needing to, they conveyed as much, or perhaps more, than they could otherwise. The intimacy in avoiding words was something appreciated by both parties. There were simply some things that had to be said, but in the same way, words were ridiculously clumsy devices and couldn’t be trusted with the really important issues.
While the air around them might linger, still and empty, there was no such thing as silence in this house.
Finally, he smiled at her softly, and words resumed. “I know that look,” he observed. “Something catch your fancy?”
“I think that looks good on you,” she retorted without any forethought, indicating the chain around his neck. As talented as he was at deciphering emotions from eyes, Lecter was that much more skilled at tones. Hers, she knew, was serious and hinted at something deeper than the phrase it leagued with. However, before the moment could extend into emotions neither were completely comfortable speaking, both reassured in their faith of love and needing nothing more, she said with a wry grin, “ ‘C’ for cannibal.”
He chuckled, and rather than dissipating the mood, it seemed to elevate. “Or calamity? Or curious? Or cautious? Or cunning? So many adjectives, so little time.” Lecter drew his glass to his lips and drained its contents. “Though I don’t think there is more accurate a word to describe me than ‘Clarice,’ wouldn’t you say?” The smile on her face birthed without knowledge or thought. How easily he could do that to her. Returning it in the fashion he always did when he knew he had hit the jackpot, he arched his brows to hers. “And your ‘H’? What might it stand for?”
“Hypersensitive?” The single reference to before almost broke it, and she recovered quickly. “Ummm…bad example. Hyperactive?”
“Accurate,” he agreed. “Quite wonderfully so.”
“How about deliriously happy?”
Her choice of words resurrected his smile, and at last he stood. In watching him approach, Clarice reflected how easily she could have spoiled the night with her former foul disposition. She supposed it didn’t matter now. The night was progressing better than she imagined. This was often the case. The corporal plains her mind established were always far inferior to whatever he had up his sleeve.
The pinwheels in Lecter’s eyes studied her precariously for a minute, though the sudden sliver of darkness was not attributed to her. He undoubtedly sensed the unwanted memory, though without a word or beat of recognition, he filed it away and closed his mind to it. Such recollections were not needed now.
“Dance with me,” he whispered, sending a shiver down her spine. Despite everything, his voice still affected her. Soft and metallic, softer still, as though it carried the reason for life itself. Pliable and delicate, demanding and lethal, all at the same time. “Before we address more…” At that, his eyes twinkled slightly, suggestive in reference to his former comment about the continuation of the night’s festivities, like a cat eying its prey, circling, but not quite ready to pounce, “impulsive concerns.”
It was neither a command nor a request. Clarice loved it when he did things spontaneously, throwing himself off his own meticulously planned – and always ostentatious – evenings. Since he did it only ever so often, the outcome was always rewarding. She stood without further ado and gave him her hand. He caressed it briefly with his thumb, then his lips before using his grip to pull her, not harshly, into him. Masterfully, right arm encircling her waist, he activated the stereo with its device, and hummed a gentle, “Beethoven or Bach?”
Lecter arched an amused brow. “Gershwin?”
Smiling coyly, she gave him the look she knew from experience that he could not defy, and murmured, “I love the way you dance to Rhapsody in Blue.”
“Ah,” he conceded. “The great transversal piece. All right, Clarice. Whatever makes you happy.”
While Lecter admired the quintessential composer of the 1920s, she understood that he was not an avid fan. Still, his rendition of the many tones of the work conveyed into dance was both highly amusing and simply irresistible. She knew how effortlessly he could make the most mediocre task into the primmest activity imaginable. From music to attire, there was no end to his many methods and tricks that were simple for him but hell for everyone else. This man could wear a welcome mat and still appear no less fashionable, the epitome of classiness.
Even still, Lecter retaliated the musical selection with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major op 68 – the ‘Pastoral Symphony’ which ran a rough fifteen minutes. It was lovely and moving, and while she indulged every minute of it, reacting to music as he did now, reveling in the sights and sensations, she had the nagging feeling that he did it to spite her, and loved him all the more.
The theme for which Rhapsody in Blue was most notorious had, for whatever reason, a profound affect on her this evening. It carried simplicity and beauty, the city and the old days, rang of deception yet spoke the truth. Perversely, it was almost a direct counterpoint to Pastoral Symphony, and that line in itself seemed to define her relationship with the man whose arms she was lost in. Different in shades and surfaces, but the same where it really mattered. Tonight, the piece seemed to so accurately describe her and her views on life that she found herself thoroughly charged. As Lecter spoke fluidly about the beat per measure, tonality, and style in Goldberg Variations (a mutual favorite) in contrast to Gershwin, she closed the space between them and claimed his mouth.
It was as though the entire evening had been building to that moment, climbing steadily in a climax of its own, waiting for one of the stubborn players to concede. In the end, however, neither seized victory. Instead, Lecter released himself, rumbling into her mouth, needing no further provocation. For an instant, time itself paused, and there was no music, no conversation before or after, and the day on the calendar, whether it was Valentine’s Day or August 2 didn’t matter. They were lost, enveloped, focused only on each other. Every kiss shared was like their first and last, the end and the beginning, Heaven and Hell, and this was no different.
Distantly, Clarice knew that their night here was over, and that the stage she was most anxious for was nearing. Though her impatience, amazingly subdued until this point, was beginning to rise, she found no need to rush this. She was just glad to have caught him successfully caught him off guard, and equally relieved that it was the break he had evidently been waiting for.
When finally their lips parted, the music had ended and was on some other track that neither had the intention of dancing to. For a minute, they just looked at each other, clasped tightly on the terrace.
“It’s amazing,” he decided at last.
“Positively everything about yourself. It’s getting a tad chilled out here, don’t you think?” His eyes implored hers hungrily, and she knew the weather was in no way bothering him. “I believe it’s time we went inside.”
Words again were too clumsy to be trusted. They left the veranda quickly, closing the doors that led inside, accredited, of course, to the nonexistent chill.
They entered the master bedroom holding hands, clutching one another a bit tighter than usual. Once at the foot of the bed, they faced each other, Clarice smiling, Hannibal with a more serious look on his handsome countenance.
“Is there something wrong?” she asked, her hands in his.
Hannibal gazed into her lovely eyes as he replied in a somber tone, “No.”
“Sshhh…” he whispered, reaching up to trace her features briefly with his index finger. “Allow me the pleasure of gazing upon you.”
They stood there at the foot of the bed for some time, Hannibal drinking in all of her as his eyes glazed over with passion.
Clarice stood still, looking regal as she allowed him to take in the sight and smell of her, his arms now wrapped around her waist. She understood completely.
After several moments, Hannibal finally spoke, “Clarice Starling…you are a vision of loveliness.”
Clarice remained silent for a brief time before answering, “Thank you. I could say the same, but won’t waste anymore time talking.”
And within moments, she was on her back, being smothered by her lover on their canopy bed.
The removal of their garments took but seconds as they fumbled at each others clothes like eager teenagers, giggling, kissing and nipping as layer after layer was discarded and tossed into the air like confetti.
A sigh, a moan, a profanity...one loving and lustful move after another on each part began their exquisite lovemaking.
“Oh, Hannibal…yes, baby,” could be heard ever so faintly as over the music that was still playing as he continued the ministrations to her he had begun, his fingers gliding over her breasts followed by heavy sucking at her erect nipples as Clarice clutched the back of his dark head and pulled him closer still. Her eyes lowered to watch him nurse at her as she kissed his beautiful face, smiling at his contentment.
She reached down to arouse him further as she gently wrapped her fingers around his already hardening penis, stroking the shaft gently at first and working it harder as Hannibal moaned his approval. She began to concentrate on the head before he placed his hand on hers and raising it back up, softly uttering, “Stop…now…”
Her legs spread wide for his entry as she continued to kiss him, Hannibal now readying her by soft, gentle movements with his index finger against her already aroused clitoris. Clarice sighed softly as Hannibal removed his finger just at the precise moment and with her hands clutching his backside, received all of him inside of her, both of them moaning at the sensation that never became too familiar.
Hannibal and Clarice kissed deeply, their tongues swiping and swirling while their groans of pleasure intensified. Both began to break a sweat as their heart rates and blood pressure began to rise.
He felt the beads of sweat beginning to form on Clarice as his tongue suddenly darted out to lap each one up, licking the salty little gems off of her and relishing the taste as if it were a fine wine.
Clarice returned the favor, licking the beads of sweat that were forming on his clavicle and chest and savoring each one.
Hannibal, now as hard as he had ever been, began his thrusts slowly as Clarice met each one deliberately. He braced her back as he pumped, allowing her more leverage so she could be propped up as their eyes met, each one glaring at the other. They smiled and began to almost grimace slightly as the sensation on both their parts became almost too much. Each one of Hannibal’s thrusts became another almost unbearable ecstasy as Clarice tried hard to wait for his climax before letting go of her own.
“Wait…please,” was all Hannibal could manage to say to her as he continued his thrusts, Clarice’s head now hanging over his shoulder, her legs wrapped tightly around his thighs as she muttered, “I’m…trying.”
It was heaven on earth and neither one could hold off a moment longer as both Hannibal and Clarice came simultaneously, an explosion of immeasurable pleasure to the dulcet tones of classical music as they held each other tightly, both red faced, out of breath, and as happy as two lovers could ever be.
It wasn’t long before Clarice began to snore, now in a deep, post coital sleep, a smile still on her face.
She tossed slightly as she turned in her sleep and reached over instinctively for her lover. All she felt was the material of the silk sheet.
Her eyes flung open at the surprise. In a flash, she then sat up and demanded aloud, “Where the fuck did he go?”
In all their years together, only twice had Clarice awoken to an empty bed. Most obviously after their dinner at the Chesapeake house, and in that instance, she was not alone for long. Lecter had returned shortly with a bowl of strawberries, two glasses, and a bottle of wine. Then he explained the further planning and final resting place of Paul Krendler. The second time was even more constricted, and a little over a year before. He had retreated to find another quilt when he saw that she was chilled.
Now, though, Clarice reflected her newfound seclusion with a blink of surprise. The room – in response to the earlier statement about the weather – was comfortable, not too warm or cold. There was no late dinner guest missing a few invaluable (in Krendler’s instance) prefrontal lobes that needed to be disposed of.
Clarice had faith in her lover’s devotion, so while she was puzzled, she was not threatened by the prospect of abandonment. She stilled and listened, having grown accustomed to deciphering his characteristically quiet movements from blatant emptiness. And the silence that did not exist in this house swallowed her now, telling her that he was not within its walls.
A thought from the old interview days struck her, though they seemed like forever ago.
Silence could mock.
Okay, so he left. Where? And most importantly, why?
There was no use in searching the lower floors. Though such had proven troublesome in the beginning, and did now, from time to time, in the comfort of their home, Clarice knew what to – or what not to – listen for.
Thus, there was little she could do other than recline and wait. All the while, she reflected Lecter’s odd behavior throughout the evening. Not entirely off the mark, but quieter, more observant, even, than usual. A sliver from the norm, different enough for her to notice.
Her mind averted to recent events that might have inspired this, but overall, she didn’t let it plague her. Instead, she stretched and settled back, sleep tempting her again, but she forced herself to ignore it. Clarice wanted to be awake when he returned.
She didn’t have to wait long. After ten minutes, she heard the front door downstairs closing subtly. There was movement for a few minutes, not loud, but to her keen and learned ears, identifying it was second nature. The only times she encountered trouble was when other sounds ranged in competition. When Lecter was satisfied with whatever he was doing, she heard him walking softly back to her. Outside the bedroom door, he paused, most likely deciding if she was still asleep. When content, he stepped in, smiling softly and holding her eyes for a minute, pupils dancing, before moving to flick on the bedside lamp.
Though she knew better than to ask, Clarice’s curiosity was nagging her, and she couldn’t hold her tongue. “Where did you go?”
While she expected him to withhold, Lecter seemed strangely compliant, the smile remaining. It wasn’t a totally ambiguous smile, malleable, though similarly not unlike a conspiring crocodile. “I had a few errands to run,” he explained. “I would have left a note, but I intended to return before you awoke.” He paused, allowing her eyes to adjust to the light and narrow further in scrutiny. Clarice saw now that he had one arm angled behind his back, elbow propped at a nearly flawless ninety degrees. Curiosity engulfed her, but this time, she clamped her teeth tightly on the inside of her cheek before the inquiry could escape.
“Were you concerned, Clarice?”
The question was so domestic it made her chuckle. There were certain aspects of their relationship that could be classified as conjugal, and others that just conveyed as comical. Neither questioned the other’s abilities to look out for oneself. There was too much evidence in the contrary to argue with.
Still, she worried about him secretly from time to time, as he did her, but neither would naturally confess.
“I was surprised. You don’t often leave me in the middle of the night…leave the house, either.” She paused, considering, and added, “At least, if you do, I’ve never been awake to notice.”
“You know I don’t.”
She arched her brows challengingly. “Oh do I?” Sitting up, she flung her legs over the side of the bed but didn’t stand. “Where did you go, Hannibal?”
“Last minute Valentine’s Day shopping. I was…caught on a horrible whim.” With that, he brought the item concealed behind his back into view. It was quaint, typical, and caused a chuckle to erupt in her throat. So wonderfully orthodox, almost a mock of the Valentine he sent her directly following their first meeting. A heart-shaped box of chocolates.
The thought birthed and died quickly as Clarice remembered exactly who held it package, offering it to her. A box of chocolates…that was almost too conspicuous. Lecter would never allow himself to become that constrained to holiday expectations, and he would always leap at the chance to surprise her.
Several pieces suddenly flew into place, and she felt herself shudder, whether in a shadow of her dead disapproval for his blunt solution of what should become of the rude, or in anticipation, she didn’t know.
Despite these confusing, conflicting thoughts, Clarice allowed herself to admit that the thought of the man who almost ruined her evening being left dead; missing such an essential organ was the icing on the cake. Such dark thoughts and notions were no longer denied. There was no point.
“What is it?” she heard herself asking eagerly.
“What do you think it is, Clarice?” Lecter retorted with a knowing smile. “Is the packaging so ambiguous, or the thought of me delivering the stereotypical expectation on the designated holiday simply too unreasonable? What is it, indeed? I wonder.” With that, he retracted his arm slightly, lifting the box to his mouth and slurping suggestively as he had all those years ago. As he lowered it once more, his eyes danced into hers. Lecter was obviously enjoying the mind games, not quite willing to concede.
If there was one thing Clarice had learned with him, it was the delicious fact that his own infallible patience had a line somewhere.
After a few minutes of undeclared battle, they conceded simultaneously with a smile. These were the best victories, neither feeling cheated of the win. Once more, he extended the box in offering and she accepted it, studying the dance of his pupils for a suspicious minute. Lecter loved the scent of misgiving, thus he tolerated her chary hesitance briefly before encouraging her with arched brows to give the package her full attention.
Smiling suggestively, Clarice began to unwrap, all the while holding his eyes. The stillness of the air was thick, but there was no silence. Not like before: she could identify this atmosphere anywhere. Thrilled shivers threatened her, but she forced them to remain at bay, even as he indulged her in gently humming the Jeopardy theme. In direct counterpoint, hearing his often-defined eerie vocals produce the tune of a game show caused her credible façade to drop at last, and Clarice dissolved into chuckles. Lecter regarded her with amusement glistening in his eyes, waiting until she recalled the task at hand.
“What could it be, what could it be,” she chanted childishly. “I never know, with you.”
“No, you don’t,” he agreed.
Finally, unable to delay the minute any longer, she removed the lid, held his gaze for another beat, and glanced down. Anticipating the most Lecteresque of Valentines, nearly shivering with awful excitement, she rapidly felt her high diminish. Seized instead with blunt and obvious surprise, Clarice was caught in the hasty pitfall between the temptation to hum her disappointment and cackle in amusement.
“Chocolates,” she reported, delivering a wry look.
“Too mundane for your tastes, Clarice?” he challenged. “I admit it is a bit conventional, especially from one who values the reverse of tradition. However…” He trailed off, eyes twinkling. “It was an impulse I simply couldn’t resist.” A minute more of silent observation, and he continued, “You appear disappointed, though. Is it not satisfactory, my dear? Or did you expect something else?”
“I thought that it might be…” She trailed off uncertainly. “This is going to sound ridiculous now, but I thought it might be a heart.”
“An actual heart?” Enjoyment, inevitably, resided in his tone, perhaps more advanced now than ever.
Clarice’s eyes narrowed. “No, a plastic one. What do you think? I know you …I know you have no problem with…doing stuff like that, and, given the day, it seemed—”
“A human heart…” Lecter mused, continuing as though she hadn’t spoken. “Really, Clarice. Don’t you think I knew that was what you anticipated? How horribly predictable. How dull. How uneventful. How…Jeffrey Dahmer. Do you deny me my right to express originality?”
His voice rang of tease, and mini-lecture as it was, she allowed herself to feel some pangs of regret at the assumption. “I’m sorry, Hannibal. Thank you for the chocolates.”
“You’re quite welcome.” Something still wasn’t right; she felt it when he neared and kissed her. Though teaching her to expect the unexpected was one of his undying quests, there was always another angle.
Then again, people called him crazy for a reason. Maybe not so much for ethics, she reflected, more to the resorted lengths he went to in order to emphasize a point. Midnight trips to town for an educational box of chocolates left many unanswered questions.
Always another angle, another point to make. Clarice would soon discover that this instance bore no exception.
Clarice, now realizing she was still nude, grabbed her robe that was on the chair near the bed and she stood abruptly, flinging it on.
“Going somewhere?” Hannibal asked as he sensed some annoyance in her.
“Just going to get something to eat. All this talk of human hearts is making me hungry,” she said with a wry smile, her robe tightly secured.
Before she could make a move, Hannibal grabbed a hold of the robe’s belt and pulling it and her close to him, suggesting, “Clarice. Why don’t you stay here and I’ll bring your snack up to you, all right?”
There was a gleam in his eye that Clarice recognized well. The look of red sparks pinwheeling in those maroon eyes, that excitement of a distant fair she remembered all too well from a certain dinner on the Chesapeake more than three years ago.
“Well, if you insist,” she said, sitting down on the bed once more.
Hannibal bent down before her and said almost in a whisper, “Why don’t you close your eyes? I want to surprise you. I have something very special to serve you tonight Clarice. I told you I had a few surprises in store for you.”
“Hannibal...” Clarice began, now taking his hands in hers, “We’ve already exchanged gifts. We have these lovely necklaces and you went out and got me chocolates…you mean to tell me there’s more?”
“Close your eyes,” he repeated as Clarice did just that.
“Wait a moment,” Hannibal added as he retrieved one of his silk handkerchiefs out of the pocket of his trousers. “It’s not that I don’t trust you Clarice, but the urge to ‘peek’ may become too great.”
Clarice smiled and remained silent as Hannibal gently tied the handkerchief around her eyes, making a most exquisite blindfold for her.
“I have to say, Doctor, you never cease to amaze me,” Clarice said, placing a hand on the blindfold to help secure it.
“I’ll be but a moment, Clarice,” Hannibal reassured her as she heard the bedroom door shut and then, within a few moments, open again.
Clarice felt her heart begin to race with anticipation as she heard the dinner cart being wheeled into the room, the sound of the wheels getting closer and closer to where she was on the bed.
After some clanks of dinner plates and silverware and what sounded like a covered dish, Clarice began to suspect what her lover had in store.
“Can I take this thing off now?” she asked impatiently, sounding like a child in the backseat of a car whining: “Are we there yet?”
“Just a moment, please,” came his response as she continued to hear him fussing with something.
After a few more minutes, Hannibal made his way over to where Clarice was still on the bed.
He sat next to her and giving her a soft kiss on the cheek, whispering in her ear, “I’ll be removing this blindfold now, Clarice, but before I do, do you remember what I told you...that night?”
Clarice knew exactly what he was referring to.
“About how dinner appeals to taste and smell?”
She smiled at the memory and replied in a soft voice, “How could I ever forget anything about that night, Hannibal?”
Pleased with her response, he replied, “That’s what I thought you’d say.”
Hannibal then removed the blindfold from Clarice’s eyes. They were both very still as he held his gaze squarely on her face to get her complete reaction. Clarice remained silent as she stared at the dinner cart. Her expressions varied from disbelief, to shock, then dismay followed by utter amusement.
They both began to laugh simultaneously as they took turns glancing at the dinner cart and each other.
Finally, Clarice Starling spoke.
“Hannibal Lecter—you are too fucking much, you know that?” They were both practically convulsing with laughter now as they stood to further inspect what was on the cart.
There on a silver platter, in all its glory, was the head of the rudest man Clarice had encountered since living in Buenos Aries. The man who only earlier that day, had made such a vile suggestion to her that she would not dignify it with a reply – the event that had practically ruined her evening and Hannibal Lecter knew deeply troubled her.
The flow of events was steadily catching up with her. Clarice regarded the head with controlled mirth, noting somewhere that despite the awkward thoughtfulness of the gift that she should be disturbed, but wasn’t. Instead, she found herself focusing on the precise incision line, and how Lecter had been very symmetrical.
A thought long dead rose within her. “Never forget what he is…”
She hadn’t, and that, perhaps, was what kept her from being horrified. What made her morbidly touched by his elongated sense of obligation to make her happy, to hunt down her enemies.
Clarice studied the head for a minute before finally moving toward it. She crossed her arms, leaned her head one way, then the next, and finally conceded with a shrug. “By far the most inventive Valentines Day gift ever. You never cease to amaze me.”
“I warned you that I would not allow myself to become predictable.”
“Not predictable in the slightest,” she agreed, turning to him with a coy smile. “I must confess, that did cheer me up. Serves the bastard right.”
Lecter chuckled a bit. “Oddly enough, I had a thought right along those lines, though with slightly altered phrasing.”
It grew still once more, Clarice looking at the head and Lecter looking at Clarice, savoring her reaction. To him, it was still a novelty for someone to witness the atrocity of his nature and react with humor, even support.
Finally, she turned to face him once more, smiling her torturous twisted smile that succeeded in driving him to the edge at times, and asked rather pointedly, “So, tell me, Hannibal. Shall I dance for you?”
Lecter seemed to consider, oddly not taken by surprise at her seemingly blunt inquiry, taking a step forward. “I’m sure I would enjoy it, though I must ask…whatever for, Clarice?” Offering her the sight of his own devious grin, he folded his arms behind his back and awaited an answer.
“Doctor, with as much extensive study you’ve done on the topic, I’m shocked that you have to ask,” she countered in a mock of horror. “After all, wasn’t it Salome who danced for King Herod in return for the head of John the Baptist?” Making a brief gesture toward his latest trophy, she further noted, “You even placed it on a silver platter.”
For a minute, there was nothing. Then he began to chuckle, regarding her with amusement, love, and never-ending awe. “Spoken like a Protestant as always, Clarice. How can I ever hope to get something by you?”
“You can’t,” she answered simply. “Of course, that’s a two way street. You never miss a trick, do you?”
Smiling still, a softer smile, Lecter walked toward her and planted a lingering kiss on her lips. “Of course not,” he answered a minute later. “I do like to make you think, though not through trickery, as you said it. No, Clarice, I’m more partial to treating. Treating you like a queen. The trickery, in and of itself, is merely a convenient bonus.” With deliberate slowness, he pulled away, let her see the mischievous devil dancing in his eyes, and winked.
copyright 2002, by
Diana Lecter & Drandmrslecter
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